Student group taking steps to help energy conservation

Members of the Power Police spent Thursday and Friday installing power strips and digital timers in Vincent Hall.

Raghav Mehta

As the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Energy Management department continues its campaign to save energy and make the University more sustainable, a new student group is taking a small-scale approach to help tackle a big issue. A coalition of environmentally-oriented student groups started The Power Police this semester to help office workers save energy. The project is a partnership between Energy Management and the Energy Efficiency Student Alliance . While Energy Management has undertaken a campaign to save energy across the University, much of their work requires technical training most students donâÄôt have, Power Police organizer Andy Pearson said. “It turns out Energy Management was doing quite a lot commercially, but unless you had an engineering degree, there weren’t ways students could participate,” he said. Despite the complexity sometimes involved in energy conservation, the Power Police are striving to take a simpler approach. The groupâÄôs main focus this semester has been coordinating energy audits at various University buildings. These audits, which the group calls âÄúblitzes,âÄù involve installing power strips, digital timers and light switch stickers, in order to monitor power usage in the buildings and help the occupants conserve more. âÄúWe hook up everything onto a power strip, measure it with our watt meter and leave the office with a sheet with how much energy theyâÄôve saved. Usually itâÄôs five to 10 watts.âÄù said junior Rob Bauer , another group organizer. Last Thursday and Friday, the Power Police held their second blitz of the year in Vincent Hall , with more than two dozen volunteers participating. Another blitz at Lind Hall earlier in the year drew nearly fifty volunteers. Buildings are given two days notice that theyâÄôve been chosen for an audit, but staff in the building are given the option of not participating. Even though the groupâÄôs efforts wonâÄôt make a huge dent in Energy ManagementâÄôs goal to cut energy usage at the University by five percent this year, Energy Management Assistant Director Jim Green said the Power PoliceâÄôs efforts are having an effect on the way people on campus think about energy. âÄúWhat they are doing is having face to face, one on one conversations about saving money with building occupants,âÄù he said. âÄúI think the culture change and energy consumption awareness is huge and I think thatâÄôs where the real dividends will pay off in their efforts,âÄù Green said. The two blitzes so far this year will help save $445 annually in energy costs, and Bauer said the group hopes to keep the blitzes going. âÄúWeâÄôre âĦ saving energy, changing culture,âÄù Bauer said. “We want to do more offices and keep going.âÄù